//Gather: the act of harvesting, foraging, and bringing together to form a connection and a collection.

At this point in the year, gatherings are abundant.  In attending, we are given the opportunity to engage in one of the simple delights of living; sharing a meal with others.  The act of eating binds us together.  We all need sustenance to survive and thrive and we are reliant on one another and the environment to provide this for us.  When we gather, we connect with more than just the people present.  We enter into the great conversation with growers and craftsmen that made all aspects of the meal possible; we also find communion with the food we are eating and the earth that nourished it.  Gathering with the recognition of relationships beyond the table set before us brings a deep sense of pleasure and belonging to the great story of life. Wendell Berry says it well, “Eating with the fullest pleasure is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world.”  

This holiday season - and all gatherings to come in the year - be an active participant in this conversation. Here are some suggestions that many of us are committed to already, but are great reminders nonetheless:

Plan a menu focused on seasonal and local fare:

As you begin to plan your meal, look for inspiration at your local farmer's market or at the grocery store under the local produce to see what is available and good this season.  When you build relationships with the farmers who produce your food, you become a part of the process.  You begin to see how harvests change each season, understand the work that goes into your food, and build a deeper sense of gratitude for the food and the people that nourish you. Eating seasonally and locally also provides you with the experience of eating foods when they are meant to be eaten - the flavor will be deeper and the nutrient profile will be richer.  If you are in the Seattle area, here is the Seattle Farmers Market site that will provide you with all the ripe and ready ingredients and pick up locations.  

Buy responsibly raised meat products:

Not all meat is created equal.  For this holiday centerpiece find a producer who allows the animal to roam and flourish, without the use of antibiotics, hormones, or unnatural diets based on corn and soy.  Check out the Eat Wild site to find out the benefits of pasture-raised meats and to find local Washington producers.

Make it a potluck:

Having guests participate in the preparation of the meal and festivities creates an event that promotes the community rather than the individual.  Beyond meal preparation, get creative with how people can help.  Have someone use their photography skills to document the evening, have each guest bring their own plate, have a friend provide all of the decorations, or invite people to come early and cook with you in the kitchen.

Take it slow:

Slow down and enjoy the gifts that were produced for you by the growers, the cooks, and by your own hard work.  Sit for hours eating, drinking, laughing, and conversing.

Use local artists or craftsmen for decorations and gifts:

Decorations and gifts can be a large part of the holiday season.  When thinking about what to do, think about using local artists and small local businesses to provide you with items and inspiration.  Again, this will allow you to build a relationship with the craftsmen and you will support your local economy.   

Compost food after a meal:

Instead of throwing all of the food scraps in the garbage at the end of the night, create a compost bin that you can throw into your yard waste.  This is a great way to remember and contribute to the whole food cycle.   

I hope this holiday season for you is filled with gatherings of good conversation, delicious food, fine drinks, and the peace that comes from knowing your role in a greater narrative.  May you feel full, nourished, and replenished.  Cheers!